Laotian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith asserted that a meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts from the four Mekong riparian states on the 24th of July on the sidelines of the 42nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting signaled the beginning of US interest in expanding cooperation with these countries.
Thongloun said this was a welcomed initiative taken by Secretary Clinton who arrived in Thailand's southern beach town of Phuket on the 23rd of July to attend the 16th ASEAN-shepherded Asia-Pacific security talks, known as ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
The meeting between Clinton and her counterparts from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia was aimed at defining approaches for the expansion of regional cooperation in all areas, especially economic development in the Mekong sub-region focusing on infrastructures as well as public health and education.
to the Lao Foreign Minister, this initiative is taken as part of bilateral
cooperation between two river basins of the Mississippi and the Mekong
The lower Mekong river basin cooperation was initiated by Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam which, in the 1990's, formally established the Mekong River Commission with assistance from international donors. Since then, this partnership has been focusing on the formulation of regulations on sustainable and environment-friendly uses of water resources among the riparian states,
Recent initiatives have been gearing towards a tripartite cooperation such as the economic triangular cooperation involving the southern part of Thailand's northeastern region, the southern part of Laos and northern Cambodia, called the Emerald Triangle. Another one is the development of an economic triangle involving southern Laos, central Vietnam and northern Cambodia. But these initiatives are moving at a low speed.
For this reason, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam hoped the US interest would help expedite the development of these projects.
Songrit Pongern reported in Lao and summarized in English. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.